Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor

The Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professorship brings a distinguished scholar to the Institute each year to teach a course and give a series of public lectures. The Professorship was endowed in 2006 by the late Professor Varnedoe's friends and colleagues to honor and perpetuate his legacy of innovative teaching and remarkable public presence. Past holders of this position include Okwui Enwezor (2012) Wu Hung (2011), David Joselit (2010), Alexander Potts (2009), Molly Nesbit (2008), and Jeffrey Weiss (2007).

Click here to watch the public lectures of previous Kirk Varnedoe visiting professors.

The 2013 and 2014 Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professors are Thierry Duve and Briony Fer.


Briony Fer
2014 Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor, Institute of Fine Arts

Briony Fer is Professor of Art History at University College London and has published extensively on 20th century and contemporary art. At the beginning of her career she was involved in producing the groundbreaking Modernity and Modernism textbooks, published jointly by the Open University and Yale University Press in 1993. She has since written on many contemporary artists, including Gabriel Orozco, Roni Horn, Vija Celmins, Ed Ruscha, Rachel Whiteread and David Batchelor. Much of her research has focused on the work of the American sculptor Eva Hesse, writing for the 2002 retrospective of the artist curated by Elisabeth Sussman at SFMOMA in 2002 and curating with Barry Rosen an exhibition of Hesse's studiowork and test-pieces at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh in 2008. Key publications include her books On Abstract Art (2000) and The Infinite Line (2004), Eva Hesse: Studiowork (2008) and Gabriel Orozco: thinking in circles (2013). She is currently preparing a book on the polemics of looking entitled 'As a Glass Eye'.

Thursday, March 6, 2014, 6:00 PM
'States of Abstraction'
Lygia Clark and the problem of art
Watch this lecture onlineOpen link in new window.

Thursday, March 13, 2014, 6:00 PM
'States of Abstraction'
Abstraction and abjection: Eva Hesse and conditions of making
Watch this lecture onlineOpen link in new window.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 6:00 PM
'States of Abstraction'
Abstraction’s ‘B’ side: Albers and Reinhardt
Watch this lecture onlineOpen link in new window.


Thierry de Duve
2013 Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor, Institute of Fine Arts

Professor emeritus from the Université de Lille 3, Thierry de Duve is a historian and philosopher of art, and an occasional curator. He is Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor at the Institute of Fine Art, New York University, for the fall semester of 2013. His English publications include Pictorial Nominalism (1991), Kant after Duchamp (1996), Clement Greenberg Between the Lines (1996, 2010), Look—100 Years of Contemporary Art (2001), and Sewn In the Sweatshops of Marx: Beuys, Warhol, Klein, Duchamp (2012). He recently finished a book of essays on aesthetics, and was during academic year 2012-2013 William C. Seitz Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013, 6:00 PM
Kant's 'Free play...' in Light of Minimal Art
Watch this lecture online Open link in new window

In section 9 of the Critique of the Power of Judgment, Kant claims that in a judgment of taste the feeling of pleasure resides in the free play of imagination and understanding. This felicitous epiphany is often seen as characterizing the modernist aesthetic experience and as having been thwarted by postmodern art. Taking my clues from minimal art, I shall examine whether postmodernism invalidates Kantian aesthetics altogether, or whether it does not offer another model of how the interplay of imagination and understanding operates, a model that forces us to displace, or amend, or update Kantian aesthetics and, in so doing, deepen our understanding of its implications.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 6:00 PM
Joseph Beuys and the German Past, Tentatively
Open to the public, RSVP required. For reservations click hereOpen link in new window

The celebrated and controversial German artist, Joseph Beuys (1921-1986), is as well known for his claim that “every human being is an artist” as for his sculptural oeuvre made of such unusual materials as fat and felt. He will here be inscribed in a complex historical narrative, going back to the German Romantics, that reveals what his awesome and disquieting artistic and political ambition has been.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013, 6:00 PM
“This is art”: Anatomy of a Sentence
Open to the public, RSVP required. For reservations click hereOpen link in new window.

Whereas in the Beaux-Arts system, medium-identification was unproblematic and aesthetic judgment took the form of “this painting is good”, “this sculpture is elegant”, and the like, in the present system, where anything can be art, there are objects that are not identifiable as belonging to any of the specific art forms and for which the sentence “this is art” formulates the liminal aesthetic judgment that admits them into the domain of art. I shall dissect that sentence, the emphasis being in turn put on “this,” then on “art,” and finally on “is”.